Oct. 8-Oct. 14: How Many Hands?

Continuing off the duet theme last week, did you know there can be more than two people playing on the piano at once?  There are even pieces written for multiple pianos!  Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was originally written for piano and orchestra.  This piece is a theme and variations - there is a main theme, then many variations based around that theme.  For this week's listening activity, we will focus only on the 18th variation.  This is one of my favourite melodies of all time - one of the most beautiful, tender melodies ever written, which grows into an overwhelmingly lush blanket of sound.   It warms you like a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly day and you just don't want it to end!  I've included the original version as well as an arrangement for 5 pianos.

S. Rachmaninoff, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (18th Variation)

The 18th Variation (15:15 to 18:09), main theme played by strings (00:29 to 00:39)


  • Which version do you like more (5 pianos or piano and orchestra) and why?
  • Listen to the main theme (beginning at 29 seconds to 39 seconds, played by strings).   The 18th variation comes directly from this theme, although they contrast each other in many ways.  Can you figure out how the 18th variation comes from the main theme?  The notes of the main theme: A-- A A C B A E.  Play around with this, get creative, and share your ideas at the next lesson!